On May 4, Harvard tapped a prolific leadership and ethics scholar as the next dean of its business school. His thoughts on the state of American business
What does it mean to take on this role after the global economic crisis?
Business itself is at an inflection point. Society's trust in business has certainly been shaken. As a result, some of society's trust in business education has been shaken as well. My hope at Harvard Business School is to restore that trust in business and business education. What we have to ask ourselves as business leaders and as a school is what can we do to restore this trust that has been lost so widely. I believe this trust can be repaired.
What's the common thread running through the current raft of business scandals?
Not all of this is about ethics. It's a broader thing. There's something about the way that we began to run business that made the pursuit of short-term profit maximization more important than creating long-term sustainable businesses.
Have you watched the congressional hearings on Goldman Sachs (GS)?
The events in the financial sector are something that have been watched closely at Harvard Business School. We teach by the case method, and one of the things we'll do through this experience is study these cases deeply as information is revealed over time so we can understand what happened at all these financial firms. I'm sure that at some point we'll write cases about Goldman Sachs because that's how we learn.
How do you feel about being the first Indian-born dean of the business school?
Like so many immigrants to America, I'm proud of my heritage, but I'm also an American citizen. I certainly think that the fact that I lived half my life in India and now half my life in the U.S. and have traveled all over the world allows me to bring a global perspective that's quite valuable to the school at this stage in its history.
What sense do you get from students about the direction they would like to see the business school go in?
There's a lot of energy about the economic crisis and the sense of lost trust. Students care equally about other things. Students want to make sure the faculty they have are bringing to them the best ideas in the world. They care about our environment being a place where they can thrive and learn.
What difference can a business school make in addressing these challenges?
What we have to do as a school is usher in what I think of as a new century of innovation, to really remake business education. We need to restore confidence that we can continue to educate leaders with the competence and character to fulfill their positions of power and privilege.
Restoring trust in business school education
Prodigious: He has written 12 books on management
PhD in management from MIT's Sloan School of Management